Planning a community-wide arts engagement program can be challenging. To help ease the struggle, we’ve put together a series of posts which we’ve lovingly dub The NEA Big Read Survival Guide. Each post contains some of the best tips and tricks that NEA Big Read grantees have learned over their years. We kicked off the series with a focus on Partnerships that are at the center of every successful NEA Big Read. From there, we shifted to the Marketing & Promotion that guide your community outreach. This series explores Programming and Events. How do you plan events with both your book selection and your community in mind? What are some ways to reach lapsed or reluctant readers? What are some creative ways to host a book discussion?
Forming a programming committee
NEA Big Read grantees have found that programming committees are not only great ways to coalesce partnership support, they are essential in developing cohesive event plans and encouraging community participation. Organizations’ NEA Big Read committees often consist of:
- Representatives of the audience that they are hoping to reach
- Experts in the themes and topics of the reading selection
- Key partners, volunteers, and/or funders
Once you have invited key programming personnel to the committee, here are some questions that may be useful to consider during event planning meetings:
- Who would want to attend these programs? Why?
- Are the planned programs accessible to all groups? If not, what are the barriers to entry? How can they be restructured?
- What are some creative programming ideas that might inspire nonreaders to participate?
“Our NEA Big Read is organized by theater artists, so we have a focus on all the art forms; we incorporate reading aloud and performance into as many events as we can. At book discussions, we typically begin with an actor reading aloud an excerpt from the story. Our work with students is all about inspiring them to express their experience of the book through any art form they choose.”
Write Out Loud
- What programs can be used to build excitement throughout the community?
- What programs can reach out in a quiet manner to those who may not be likely to participate?
- What programs and resources already exist in your community? Are there any that could adopt NEA Big Read goals and incorporate your reading selection into their regular programming?
“In the variety of programming we did [for Station Eleven], we also augmented a number of our regular programs, like our Friday Movie Matinees and children’s storytimes. While these are regularly-run programs, the audience of these programs do not always find themselves in the stacks of the library and this crossover encouraged a wider curiosity that then sparked conversations of the themes of our NEA Big Read program.”
Santa Barbara Public Library